A Chelsea pensioner is an in-pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement home and nursing home for former members of the British Army located in Chelsea, London. Historically, however, the phrase applied more widely, referring to both in-pensioners and out-pensioners.
In- and out-pensioners During the reign of King Charles II, the Royal Hospital was still under construction, so he introduced a system for distribution of army pensions in 1689. The pension was to be made available to all former soldiers who had been injured in service, or who had served for more than 20 years.
By the time the Hospital was completed, there were more pensioners than places available in the Hospital. Eligible ex-soldiers who could not be housed in the Hospital were termed out-pensioners, receiving their pension from the Royal Hospital but living outside it. In-pensioners, by contrast, surrender their army pension and live within the Royal Hospital.
In 1703, there were only 51 out-pensioners. By 1815 this figure had risen to 36,757.
The Royal Hospital remained responsible for distributing army pensions until 1955, following which the phrase "out-pensioner" became less common, and "Chelsea pensioner" was used largely to refer to "in-pensioners".
Life of in-pensioners
A ward within the Royal Hospital ChelseaUpon arrival at the Royal Hospital, each in-pensioner is given a "berth" in a ward, a small room (9 feet x 9 feet) on a long corridor, and is allocated to a company. In-pensioners surrender their army pension, in return receiving board, lodging, clothing and full medical care.
The size of the hospital berths has increased over time. There are 18 berths to a ward.
Men In Scarlet Album 7 Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea are releasing an album on the 8th November 2010 in order to raise money for the Chelsea Pensioners' Appeal. Featuring Dame Vera Lynn, Katherine Jenkins, The Soldiers and Janey Cutler, the album is full of well known War Time songs "The Royal Hospital Chelsea - Men In Scarlet". http://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/men-in-scarlet. Retrieved 11 October 2010. The Chelsea Pensioners' Appeal is currently trying to raise £30million for the refurbishment of the Chelsea Pensioners living accommodation "The Royal Hospital Chelsea - Appeal". http://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/appeal-1/appeal. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
Conditions for admission as an in-pensioner To be considered for admission as an in-pensioner, a candidate must be:
A former non-commissioned officer or soldier of the British Army (Commissioned Officers are eligible provided they served for at least 12 years of non-commissioned service or if they have been awarded a War Disability Pension while serving in the ranks) In receipt of an Army Service or War Disability Pension 65 years of age or over (this may be waived if a candidate is suffering from a seriously disabling, incurable but not immediately life-threatening condition requiring long-term care) Free from the obligation to support a wife, partner or family Until 2009, only male candidates were admitted. It was announced in 2007 that female ex-service personnel would be admitted on the completion of modernisation of the long wards. The first women pensioners, Winifred Phillips and Dorothy Hughes, were admitted in March 2009..
Clothing In-pensioners are entitled to come and go from the Royal Hospital as they please, and are permitted to wear civilian clothing wherever they travel. However, within the Hospital, and in the surrounding area, in-pensioners are encouraged to wear a blue uniform. If they travel further from the Hospital, they should wear the distinctive scarlet coats instead of the blue uniform. The scarlet coats are also worn for ceremonial occasions, accompanied by tricorne hats.
In uniform, the pensioners wear their medal ribbons and the insignia of the rank they reached while serving in the military. They may also wear other insignia they earned during their service and many pensioners now wear parachute jump wings and even SAS jump wings. It is illegal to impersonate an in-pensioner; at one time this was punishable by death.(Wikipedia)
Women accepted as Chelsea Pensioners for first time Women have been accepted as Chelsea Pensioners for the first time in the institution's 300-year history. 2:37PM GMT 12 Mar 2009 Dorothy Hughes, 85, and Winifred Phillips, 82, were officially welcomed to the Royal Hospital Chelsea in west London.
They will live alongside 300 men at the site, which is home to war veterans with no dependants.
Declaring "I like men", Miss Phillips said: "It's been fabulous. It's just like the Army all over again but you don't have so much to do."
After a 22-year career in the Army, she raised the question of why women were not allowed to become Chelsea Pensioners.
She said: "When I was living in Shropshire 10 years ago I read a magazine called The Legion and it said they wanted more men, so I wrote and said 'why not women?'. Then they wrote back to me later saying they agreed, but it's taken me 10 years to get here."
Miss Phillips, who moved from Deal in Kent to the site, said she has always preferred male company.
Her sole fellow female (in-pensioner) Mrs Hughes, from Kidlington in Oxfordshire, applied for her place after seeing the hospital on television.
She said: "I'm 85 and I kept thinking 'well, you don't know how long your health is going to last', so I had to make arrangements for the future."
Mrs Hughes added: "This is fantastic. There are a lot of women staff around anyway, so you don't feel isolated, and once you've been in the army, you don't see them as men, they're mates."
But she has already ruled out any romance with the male pensioners.
She said: "It's a new beginning for me and maybe it's a second childhood and I'm going to love every minute of it. I've been 18 years a widow and no way would I go into a relationship, it's my own life now and I'm living it."
The two women moved to the site on Monday, having spent a few trial days there in January.
So far, they have been given a warm welcome despite being the first females there for 317 years.
Geoff Crowther, 79, from Halifax in West Yorkshire, said: "I think they certainly deserve it. I spoke to one man when they came in and he said 'As long as there's one for each of us, it's all right'."
Fellow pensioner Lewis Prangle, 89, from Winchester, Hants, said: "I think it's good to have the ladies in. I don't think it will make a lot of difference to us. There will be different kinds of conversations on the mess table, we've got to moderate our language."
Women have been included in the scheme because of the increasing number of female soldiers at pensionable age.
The men have known for three or four years that they would eventually have female company.
Alan Swain, 79, from Sheffield, looked after the women on their initial visit.
He said: "They blended in very well, they were very well received.
"The boys in the dining hall were saying 'Come and sit here', it was done very well."
Mr Swain added: "I don't think it will change that much. They've (the women) been in the services and they know what it's like." (The Telegraph)